In preparation for the conference I scanned the event schedule a few times for the items most relevant for my involvement in the Community Foundation world—fostering civic and community engagement. The conference has a wide breadth of participants and sessions and technology is making it easier than ever to explore sessions and connect with people who share interest and experience in civic engagement. To really dig in and get the most out of the experience, I decided to go all in on the various technology pieces the organizers had set up for this event. By now, most people have heard of that little thing called Facebook—and the event has a page—but the richness of communication available goes well beyond “liking” the Council on Foundations Facebook page.
First up, there’s a very cool way to use technology to follow what’s going on at sessions you can’t attend or to connect with people you didn’t even realize were deeply involved in your area of Community Foundation work. It’s called Twitter. Before the idea of using still more social media turns you off, please give me a minute to convince you this is way more than random old high school or college classmates posting about the latest episode of Two and a Half Men. Twitter is a way to receive, in short bursts, an incredible diversity of views and news without having to search the Internet. It’s also a way to engage in conversations about local politics, neighborhood issues, trends in the giving community and much more. Technically you can also use it to find great restaurants or watering holes or fun shows in a new city, but for our purposes I’ll stick to the professional uses. What’s great is, the good folks at Twitter do most of the work for you. I signed up, Twitter asked me what areas I liked, and then suggested some people. My favorite local new source uses Twitter heavily, so I followed a few of the writers. Then I followed a few of the people those writers followed. Next thing I knew I had a robust source of news that takes a fraction of the time to gather from the old way of having bookmarks on my computer.
Three quick steps to start using Twitter at this conference:
- Go to twitter.com and set up an account. I tweet under @omarpassons, so you clearly do not need to be creative with your account name.
- When you get the option to “follow” people (the name for reading what other people write), search for @COF_ and click “follow.” This will allow you to see what the conference organizers are talking about.
- Download a Twitter App to your mobile phone. When the Arab Spring, well sprung I guess, it didn’t do it from desktop computers. Those moving videos and communications were coming from people in the streets on their phones. Your phone has an App Store (where you downloaded Angry Birds or your banking App), so just search on Tweetdeck and it will walk you through the steps.
As mentioned, the Conference on Foundations has a Twitter feed, it’s @COF_ (be sure to include the underscore). For those who doubt the potential power of this medium, let me tell you that I’ve used Twitter already (flew in a couple days early) to connect with the wonderful co-founder of a local news outlet, learn that Mother’s is a phenomenal breakfast place for baked ham, gotten off the beaten path to the Piety Street Market in Bywater and even participated in a Second Line. These aren’t all “work” uses, of course, but following people who care about the things you care about is a great way to tap into conversations you didn’t even know were happening.
Fortunately for us, the Conference on Foundations has taken things a step further this year and set up an App for the actual event. I’ve exceeded my word limit for the day, so that’ll have to be tomorrow’s post. Enjoy the conference.
Omar Passons is a San Diego construction attorney and community activist who sits on the Leadership Committee of the San Diego Foundation’s Center for Civic Engagement. You can follow him on Twitter @omarpassons.